Over the course of the last few years many issues have arisen with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse and burro program or other agencies that mange wild horses and burros like the National Wildlife Service (USFWS). Various issues that span from humane handling, a lack of data in the program and horses apparently gone to slaughter come and go in news media. The SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is to have PR (Public Relations) do a news release that says “we got it covered” and a promise of real action (or at least a full report) at a later date. The “later dates” pass…. and “hello, is there anyone accountable?”
2. What about the INVESTIGATIONS into our horses going to slaughter? There are two that made national headlines. The 1700 horses BLM sold to one killbuyer, Tom Davis, that apparently had personal connections to then Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works investigating the accountability of Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge as once again Sheldon ships 252 horses to a contractor that remains unaccountable for horses previously sent to him.
In September of 2012 an investigative report was published in ProPublica written by Pulitzer prize nominee Dave Phillips. That report showed how 1700 BLM wild horses went to one man, a known killbuyer named Tom Davis. Davis also apparently had personal connections to then Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. The “relationship” between Salazar and Phillips actually includes an on tape account of the former Secretary threatening Phillips with a “punch in the face.” The investigation began after Dave Phillips met Wild Horse Education founder Laura Leigh. You can read about the investigation HERE: http://wildhorseeducation.org/slaughter-investigation/
In the aftermath of the investigation the BLM issued a memorandum stating: “Without prior approval from the (BLM) assistant director, no more than four wild horses and/or burros may be purchased by an individual or group within a six-month period.” Translated that means that id a situation like Davis arose today… he would get 1700 wild horses.
An article by NBC news in May of 2013 they wrote “The Office of Inspector General is expected to present its findings to a U.S. Attorney, who will decide if any charges will be filed against Davis.” READ ARTICLE HERE: http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/05/14/17708998-the-case-of-the-missing-mustangs-what-happened-to-1700-wild-horses?lite
It’s now 2014…. We have yet to hear ANYTHING about those within the BLM that ignored every logical indication that Tom Davis was shipping horses to slaughter and continued to approve sales.
In 2013 Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge (USFWS) announced plans to eradicate all wild horses within the Refuge. Sheldon also intended to send horses to a contractor that just the year before was investigated by Sheldon officials including John Kasbohm, the Director of the Refuge. The investigation showed: that Stan Palmer (J&S) could not verify the whereabouts of as many as 200 of the 262 horses placed with him between 2010 and 2013, an individual that took horses from Palmer said he did take them to the “sale bar,” (kill auction), some of the foals sent to Palmer were found in terrible condition. Under the government contract, Palmer is supposed to find quality, long-term homes for the horses.
In September of 2013 half the population of horses were removed from the Refuge. Under public outrage and litigation, and spite of findings the by Sheldon officials about horses sent to J&S,once again sent horses to that contractor. Not only did they send horses, but the sent 252 horses. That number was almost as many as J&S had received in the prior three years combined. READ HERE: http://wildhorseeducation.org/2013/09/13/failure-to-protect-americas-war-horses-faces-legal-action/
After horses were sent to J & S concerns for their welfare went through the roof. An employee of J&S posted on Facebook “show up with your trailer and load em up…. need gone asap!!!!….. when they leave my house they are no longer my business.” This quote was made on a page that also made references to Sheldon horses being used in a rodeo event on the contractors property.
An outraged public and wild horse advocacy groups called on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (that has jurisdiction over USFWS and the refuge) to investigate the conduct of Sheldon officials in sending horses to J&S and ask for an accounting. Sheldon officials reiterated what they told a Federal Judge in a Reno courtroom, that they changed the contract and J&S would not give horses to those intending to send them to slaughter and that they planned on doing an onsite visit.
On Nov. 18th Sheldon officials did do an onsite visit. Of 5 adopters that J&S had given over 180 horses to, Sheldon officials did not view a single horse. Sheldon was given documentation by J&S that stated one adopter listed “breading,” (we assume he meant breeding) and the other four listed “rodeo” for their “purpose.” We want to remind you that many of the horses sent to J&S were older, sterilized animals. No registered contractor with the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association (PRCA) uses wild horses as “rodeo stock.”
Since those findings the Committee has issued no public statement. At this time Sheldon plans to remove the rest of the horses from the Refuge this August.
READ more about Sheldon horses HERE: http://Sheldonhorses.wordpress.com
3. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has issued statement after statement about a “humane care policy.” Yet the truth is that BLM put a “Memorandum” in place that simply allows discretion on the ground in BLM employee hands in all but allowing a helicopter to hit a horse.
Since a federal court judge granted a Temporary Restraining Order in 2011 and Preliminary Injunction in 2012 to pilot conduct (in a suit brought by Wild Horse Educations Laura Leigh), “humane handling” has been a topic of conversation and review. In 2013 Leigh and her attorney again gained strong language from a federal judge against inhumane conduct that included running horses through barbed wire, hotshot use sand babies to exhaustion.
Wild horses and burros still have no shelters in holding facilities even though it is a requirement for adopters. Again BLM went through the motions of public meetings and press releases saying the issue would be addressed. Yet to this date shelters are no more than a random, extremely limited, reality at any holding facility.
BLM has yet to create a real policy. One that gives specific parameters for what humane care of wild horses and burros really is and outlines ramifications for violations of policy.
As the BLM, and other federal agencies, ignore issues in wild horse and burro programs and simply continue “business as usual” our wild horses and burros find themselves in deeper and deeper trouble. Roundup contracts have been approved for 2014. We face serious drought in the West. The Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) pushes for removal and destruction of wild horses, no solutions for range management present themselves. As our federal agencies continue to fail our wild horses and burros the issues mount.
BLM is AWOL in it’s duties to protect wild horses and burros. Federal agencies are remiss in their promises to follow through on serious issues. The public keeps waiting….
If there are not serious changes fast we face one of the most intense moments in the history of wild horse and burro management because of a failure to act on the part of federal legislators and BLM upper management.
A serious drought will face our American West this year… will it be the excuse needed to destroy our wild horses?